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Meet some of our volunteers

Grace Lo

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Prior to my retirement, I was a Workforce Planner in one of the big four banks for 20 years.  Working in corporate environment I enjoyed the interaction with customers and colleagues.

I am a fitness enthusiast. I go to gym 3-4 times a week doing group exercise and circuit training. I am also a member of a bush walking club and hike every Wednesday. Exercise improves both my mind and body.

'Passengers' 2016 is my recent favourite movie and Harry Potter is my favourite book.

What drew you to volunteer for Stroke Foundation?

My mother-in-law had a stroke in 2013. We did not have any support or resources to deal with her illness. She died 4 months later. Therefore, I am passionate about the work done by Stroke Foundation, "Prevent, Treat and Beat".

What have you enjoyed most about volunteering at Stroke Foundation?

Donations coming through the mail reminds me that generous and warm people do exist in Australia. What is the most important thing you have learned through volunteering with Stroke Foundation?

People do care about others. Big donations occasionally come in and it reminds me people are kind and generous.

How has volunteer work had an impact on your life?

Raise my spirit. There are people who help others. People’s actions are right and just. Some donors are very old, over 90s but are still so generous and kind.

What motivates you to stay involved?

Knowing the work done by the Stroke Foundation has profound impact for stroke patients and their families.

Tonty Finneran

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am 62, and nearly 7 years since my stroke (Mar 13).

When I’m not volunteering, I write pictorial histories about elements of the Australian Bus Industry, in total six books with two more in the pipeline.

I also do volunteer work for committees at Bankstown Lidcombe Hospital (BLH), South West Sydney Local Health District Stroke Governance Committee (SWSLHD); SWSLHD - Transforming your Experience patient presenter in a leadership course; ACI Stroke network member and a Consumer Councillor for Stroke Foundation.

When I’m not doing that I play lawn bowls.

Hobbies - I’m into bus and coaches having worked in the industry for over 40 years in various roles.

Favourite movie - “Battle of the River Plate” or “Sink the Bismarck”. I served over 37 years with the Army Reserve and like the Army core values of Courage, Initiative, Teamwork and Respect that these Naval stories show plus leadership at all ranks. 

What drew you to volunteer for Stroke Foundation?

I was introduced to Stroke Foundation by accident and nominated my guardian angel, Laura King as the Stroke Champion. Laura was my Physio at BLH during my stroke recovery.

I felt I owed the BLH and Stroke Foundation a huge debt that somehow in some way I could give something back.

It’s a cause I’m passionate about and if I can save someone else from the ordeal (13 weeks) that I had to go through by spreading the F.A.S.T. message, then I think I have done my job. If I can save two, then all the better and so on. Maybe I can’t get to the 25 million Australians but I’m trying hard to get the F.A.S.T. and prevention messages across to all Australians.

What have you enjoyed most about volunteering at Stroke Foundation?

I like StrokeSafe talks to corporates and businesses. In my opinion, that’s the age group we should focus on. They have colleagues and families and if they know the stroke symptoms, they can think F.A.S.T. and act FAST.

Doing the speaker circuit with Probus and other such groups is good too, although I enjoy the corporates much more.

We need to change the image that stroke is an old person’s illness and that the reason, I believe we need to refocus the stroke message.

What is the most important thing you have learned through volunteering with Stroke Foundation?

Expect the unexpected.

80% of stroke is preventable and some strokes occur in-utero. It’s non-discriminatory.

A simple change in lifestyle can prevent a stroke. Also know your numbers and get your GP to give you a full blood test to identify any risk factors that may exist. 

How has volunteer work had an impact on your life?

Professionalism and quality.

Take every opportunity presented.

Extremely enjoyable when you receive very long positive feedback after the presentations. 

No time for second best, achieve your personal best goals.

What motivates you to stay involved?

Stroke Foundation support team and family.

Stroke Foundation is a wonderful Foundation and I’m privileged to have great friends in it and relish each opportunity given to me.

The research going on behind the scenes is amazing and procedures such as clot retrieval is such a blessing for the more recent patients. I wish it was available when I had my three-clot stroke!

It will save someone’s life one day.

Helen Gardiner

Tell us a bit about yourself; what do you do when you're not volunteering?

Babysitting and spending time with my two Granddaughters, aged 4 and 6. 

Favourite activities: Catching the train with my grandchildren for fun in Mordialloc; also teaching them how to cook. I always leave an ingredient out so when we run through a checklist of ingredients, they can tell me what is missing!

Another fun activity is “Make Believe”, I went on a trip to Africa the other day in a rowboat. Their imagination is so much better than mine, amazing what they can teach the older generation. 

Hobbies: Family tree research; it was really exciting to make contact with relatives in Ireland. My grandparents came out to New Zealand in 1913, so we only knew the New Zealand relatives who lived initially in Christchurch.  It was also a surprise to learn my maiden name of O’Byrne was actually Byrne. There are definitely some shocks in store when one undertakes this project.

Bookclub group: I read a lot so belonging to a Book Club means I read books I normally would not read.  The book this month has an Australian setting and is called ‘White Girl”.  I suspect there will be a lot of animated discussion involved.

I love music and favourite artists/groups are Michael Bublé, Sol3Mio, Ronan Keating and Andre Rieu. Coffee catchups and movie sessions are also a regular occurrence.   My favourite book is “Walking Free” by Munjed Al Muderis.

What drew you to volunteer for Stroke Foundation?

I was involved with Lifeline in New Zealand as well as St John Ambulance Brigade, so it was natural for me to volunteer when I arrived in Melbourne nearly five years ago. Initially I volunteered in the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation office for nearly two years. I decided to make a change and came to the Stroke Foundation.  For various reasons it is my way of giving back to the community.

What have you enjoyed most about volunteering at Stroke Foundation?

Variety of work, generally no two days are the same, constant learning and working with dedicated people who are passionate about their end goal.

What is the most important thing you have learned through volunteering with Stroke Foundation?

Adaptability: no task is too big or too small. 

How has volunteer work had an impact on your life?

Continued learning, meeting wonderful people and feeling good in being able to give back to my new community. 

What motivates you to stay involved?

The sense of achievement, involvement in my new community along with continual learning and working with a fantastic team.